So Singapore won’t introduce a plastic bag levy. If you do one thing this year to live more sustainably, pick from our list of how to quit single-use plastic. And stick with it.
Let’s just come out and say it: Singapore has a long way to go when it comes to reducing plastic bag usage and snapping out of a single-use plastic culture. Bangladesh imposed a ban on the bags back in 2002. Ethiopia has a near total ban. Just a year after Israel introduced a law that required supermarkets to charge for plastic bags, usage dropped by 80 per cent, and bag waste found in the sea halved. But here? No levy on plastic bag usage will be introduced.
So it still comes down to more of us choosing to reduce plastic in our own lives, stop contributing to the problem and start living more sustainably. Dipping into a zero waste lifestyle sound overwhelming? It isn’t. We can all make some easy changes that bring us closer to being #plasticfreepeople.
Besides, who wants to be part of the culture of flippant double-and triple-bagging at the supermarket; mindlessly taking plastic cutlery with each takeaway meal and needing straws and plastic carriers with each drink (Can’t we master a grip on a coffee cup here?).
Yes, yes, we use plastic bags for rubbish. But do we need so many? At last count, back in 2011, the Singapore Environment Council says we went through 3 billion plastic bags on this tiny island. We don’t need to show you another video explaining how non-renewable petroleum and gas is needed to make things like plastic bags, straws and cutlery that only get used once, and never break down. Horrified that every single piece of plastic cutlery and every single straw you’ve used in your lifetime is still hanging around? You should be.
Here are a few small changes we can all make now that won’t cost the earth…
Bring your own damn bag
Stats your thing? Know this: a recent study by the NEA suggested that using one reusable bag over a year could prevent over 125 single-use plastic bags going to waste. Besides, the reusable bag can look pretty cool, no? Treat yourself to some of the cool foldable shoppers by Baggu (available at An Uplifted Day) and bring them with you everywhere.
Say no to the straw
Surprise: we can drink straight from a glass at home, and are equally capable of this when we enjoy takeaway drinks. If you’re actually quite fond of sipping from a straw, grab a reusable stainless steel, glass or bamboo number.
We just snapped up a bunch of bamboo straws by Bamboo Straw Girl at the Green Collective popup store. Stainless steel your thing? Check out the ones by Neis Haus, which also come in smoothie and bubble tea size, so no excuses. Or pick up Sonder Social’s latest subscription box of ethically made goodies, which comes with a stainless steel straw. Personal fave? The stainless steel cocktail straws by The Pineapple Co. Snap them up at Kapok at the National Design Centre, or Shiva Designs Bespoke. Newcomer The Clean Attempt has reusable straws in rose gold, and cool social enterprise cafe and lifestyle store The Social Space offers straws in glass as well as stainless steel.
Go back to using a water bottle
Get yourself a sleek stainless steel Kleen Kanteen or a swish rose gold Swell bottle and fill her up with filtered water. Water in plastic bottles that’s been shipped around the world? Not a good scene.
Bring a reusable coffee cup
All those takeaway coffee lids and the inexplicable plastic handles starting to gnaw away at you? Honestly, even the grumpiest kopi uncle in town doesn’t mind your KeepCup (especially if you take the lid off for him). We’ve tried both the KeepCup and the Frank Green versions (Gallery & Co’s reusable cups are a Frank Green design), the latter being slightly harder to clean thanks to the no-spill feature. The choice really comes down to which brand offers the colour combo you like best: yes you can still appreciate pretty things while living sustainably.
And a reusable container for your takeaway
Yes, you can bring your own container to the hawker centre or food court for your ta pau. I’ve been doing it, I’ve spotted a PWC type at our local food court getting his noodle soup packed in his own container, and you can too. Nobody bats an eyelid.
Do you need that plastic cutlery?
If you’re heading back to your office with takeaway, use the office cutlery. If you’re heading home, use your own stash. If you’re really on the go, think about bringing your own – pick up one of the zero waste cutlery kits by Bamboo Straw Girl or Puffy Lamb at the Green Collective popup store. Or put together your own kit with chopsticks, reusable straws and the essential pack of tissues for choping your seat. We ain’t gonna lie: we’re kind of in love with that the locally made Momshoo cutlery pouch above. But most importantly, just say no to the cutlery, or hand it back.
PS: Kudos to Food Panda for trialling an opt-out for disposable cutlery being delivered with takeaway meals – now, just go for opt-in to make people actually think about it first, and we’ll delete those other food delivery apps on the spot.
Enough with the shrink-wrapped fruit and vegetables
Ah, the irony of the organic vegetables at the supermarket: wrapped in plastic and flown in from Spain and the US just to clock up extra food miles. Even the coconuts at the supermarket come in a plastic film. Right now, we’re rediscovering the wet markets and farmers’ markets around Singapore so we can buy loose produce and pack it in our own bag. Or you might want to check out why everyone’s into urban gardening…
Now about that cling film…
Jamie Oliver got some heat on Instagram recently for a video that taught how to poach eggs in cling wrap – and it was skin-crawling for several reasons. First of all, you should be learning how to poach an egg without the need for single-use plastic. And just a heads up: hormone-disrupting elements in plastic are a whole other story, but Cancer Research UK warns against eating food that’s been in contact with cling film that’s been heated.
Switch to storing your food in glass or ceramic containers with lids. Or, check out reusable Apiwraps from Neis Haus and Bee’s Wrap (available at RedMart): cotton treated with beeswax that you can use to cover bowls, wrap sandwiches, cheese etc to keep your food fresh. Bamboo Straw Girl has a selection of wild beeswax wraps, and The Clean Attempt offers beautiful wraps and even beeswax bars for repairing and extending the life of your wraps. Brilliant.
It’s simple, right? Now imagine what we could do if we all made one of these moves…
Like this story? Here’s more to check out:
The eco friendly popup we’ve been waiting for
Why everyone’s getting into urban gardening
Singapore’s sustainable dining scene is on the rise
Our favourite ethical fashion labels
Put these cruelty-free and vegan-friendly cosmetics on your beauty radar
And read our interview with Stephanie Dickson, founder of Green is the New Black